Alan left Sherborne (did you hear the story of how he and others decided, on their very last night, to go for a swim in the strictly out-of-bounds school pool? Some pupils from the Girls’ School had the same idea and suddenly appeared at the gate. The boys had already packed their swimming trunks…) and joined the Royal Sussex Regiment. During his two years National Service he was stationed at Detmold in Germany and finally at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire.
On discharge he went up to St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, to read a science-based course (his father, Hardman Smith, had studied at the same college and we still have in the family his oar, the blade painted with the college crest and a record of bumps and over-bumps) and graduated with a 2/1. David Wood remembers “jobs were aplenty” and Alan chose to join Esso.
One day Alan had visited an art exhibition in Cambridge and met Aase, a Danish au pair. They were married in Aase’s church in Copenhagen, and Alan brought his new bride to England, to live in Sutton Coldfield. It was not long before Louise, and later James, doubled the size of the family.
About this time Alan became bored with his job at Esso and applied to a Birmingham company, Foseco (in the early days of the foundry industry, the first job of apprentices was to follow horse-drawn traffic with bucket and spade – the scooped contents were used to refine castings. Foseco had made a science of the practice and sold a chemical substitute in plastic drums). During the interview the Personnel Officer learned that Alan spoke fluent Danish (fortunately the Personnel Office had no Danish so could not dispute the claim) and Alan found himself liaison officer between head office and the Scandinavian agents. The family moved to Copenhagen. Such was his success that Foseco finally offered him the Danish agency, funding his warehousing and stockholding costs, but allowing him to run the business. Well before the normal retiring age, he was able to sell his share to his partners and retire.
But these day jobs had to be fitted in around Alan’s hobbies. He raced his Knarr class sloop, occasionally crewed by Jacob, the Crown Prince’s sailing master, becoming ‘Admiral’ (Commodore) of the class and competing at the World Championships in San Francisco Bay. His cruising years aboard his Ventou 32 ‘Elizabeth’ took him all over the Baltic and through the canals to the Mediterranean.
His contemporaries at Sherborne will remember Alan’s passion for music. He played his French Horn in amateur and professional orchestras and in his own wind ensemble, and was known in Copenhagen as a ‘session musician’, available to be called in to strengthen the brass desk if necessary.
Louise married Per and a grandson for Alan, Nicolai (8), duly appeared on the scene. Louise is one of those perennial students, and is now studying for her PhD in Nutritional Sciences (“fat people“, she calls it). James is something high-powered at Intel and lives with Eva in California, providing yet another grandson Benjamin (10).
Alan and Aase divorced in the 1970s and Alan’s new enterprise, with his partner Elizabeth, whom he met in 1981, was Fired Earth Copenhagen. They opened a shop in the best boutique area of the city and gained a reputation, in a country where reputations in the home decoration industry are hard earned, for taste and expertise.
Alan’s health deteriorated – he was known in the hospital as ‘the English Patient’ – and he was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent a successful operation but his memory and hearing were affected, and for his last few years he lived a quiet life, supported by the loving care of Elizabeth, in their delightful sunny apartment in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
He died on 8th January 2007 with Elizabeth and his son James at his bedside. The theme running throughout the letters of condolence from Sherborne and Cambridge friends has been “Alan was fun – he was good to be with.”
Martin Smith (f 48-51)
Harpenden 5th January 2007